Gov't spurs development of Saemangeum reclamation area

GUNSAN, South Korea, July 4 (Yonhap) -- The government kicked off its drive Thursday to build agricultural and tourism facilities in the massive reclamation area in the country's southwest coast, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

Under the Saemangeum development project launched in 1991, South Korea has spent around 3 trillion won (US$2.63 billion) to build the world's longest seawall at 33.9 kilometers in length, reclaiming 40,100 hectares of land and constructing a freshwater lake in North Jeolla Province.

It aims to transform the region into an eco-friendly waterfront city with high-end industrial, tourism and agricultural facilities as well as science and research institutes.

As part of the effort to create some 81.7 square kilometers of agriculture land by 2020, which accounts for about 30 percent of the total reclamation area, the government began building infrastructure on Thursday such as irrigation channels, streets and reservoirs.

The first phase of the project aims to complete construction of 15.1 square kilometers of farmland by 2017 with a budget of 145.6 billion won, the PMO said.

In a move to transform the region into a tourism hub, the government also plans to begin construction of a massive leisure complex near the seawall within this year.

"The government will choose a constructor in charge of building large-scale ocean leisure and sporting facilities along with accommodations and other commercial zones by the end of this year," said Kwon Tae-sung, chief of the Office for Saemangeun Development Planning under the arm of the PMO.

In the three years following the opening of the seawall as a tourist attraction, more than 20 million tourists visited the area as of June, according to data.

To push for diverse projects in an effective fashion, the government will launch a new agency in September to be in charge of the Saemangeum development plan, the PMO said.

"Along with pushing for government-led projects, we will strive to lure investment from private entities," said Kwon.

"In March, OCI decided to buy 570,000 square meters of land in Saemangeum, and we expect more companies both at home and abroad to make an active investment here," he added, citing the country's top polysilicon maker.

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